Matrix M-Stage HPA-3B Balanced Headphone Amp
Matrix M-Stage HPA-3B Balanced Headphone Amp
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Product Description
From Matrix’s highly regarded M-Stage series, the HPA-3B is a Class A balanced headphone amplifier that supports both single-ended and differential outputs, maximizing your headphones’ performance. It has two XLR inputs for a balanced input, and in case you don’t have a balanced DAC, it comes with two XLR-to-RCA adapters for a standard unbalanced input Read More

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Shireman5
9
Sep 12, 2018
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So, I was searching for a headphone amp for what seems like four years. With so much stuff coming out in the past decade the options have become near ludicrous. My needs were "fairly" simple: Neutral sound signature, class A circuit topology and the one aspect that kept me waiting so long, fully differential in and out, meaning a true balanced signal from input to my headphones. I heard about this little amp about two years ago and put off buying it until now.
The build of this amp is as solid as it is sturdy(oh my God I fear for that tiny gain switch) and well vented as this little thing could adequately heat a drink sitting on the top plate. The volume is not indicated well in low light, but using the volume knob itself feels like a quality volume pot, so smooth and linear. My DAC is also a recently purchased SMSL SU-8 which includes balanced outs and a dynamic range of 120 db with a respectable SNR of 116 db. I have only driven my headphones through the single ended output as I am saving again to buy balanced cables for each set I have: HD 600, HD800 and M1060. With the DAC and amp paired together via xlr cables, the overall noise floor is virtually undetectable. Dead silent. Not even the highly sensitive HD 800 can be heard over this pairing.
Here comes the honesty. Normally, I have driven my headphones out of my vintage receiver. The benefit of doing that was I had all the power to drive the M1060's with a built in graphic equalizer to help tame the treble on the HD 800's. My receiver also has a loudness control feature which basically amplifies the lowest and highest frequencies, to my ears, about 8-10 db. When this is off and the equalizer is leveled out the sound is dead neutral. Upon listening to my first set of tracks on the HPA-3B I noticed the amount of bass was on par with the receiver with the aforementioned features turned off. The bass is lean overall but present. The midrange, to me, sounds forward and at times a bit shouty but is smooth and resolving with the right music. Treble decay is airy and natural but more so when compared to my receiver. Class A topology allows for that extra bit of fidelity that class A/B(the receiver) just can't reach.
I use foobar2000 with an equalizer(when you own HD 800's or you're a nit picker in general it's a must) and so far I'd say the dac and amp sound great together. Until I get some balanced cables I can only enjoy single ended for now. I hope to add some updates in the future.
Sep 12, 2018
DareToBe
142
Aug 14, 2018
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This looks nice, but the specs are quite behind the THX 789. Any other reasons to choose it?
Aug 14, 2018
xevman
49
Sep 22, 2018
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The matrix has all neutrik connectors a Nortel torodial transformer wima caps and high grade nichicon audio capacitors. All of which you won't find in the massdrop thx aaa. You get cheaper grade components cheaper connectors and a wall wart power supply.
Sep 22, 2018
AndyZilla
9
Dec 21, 2018
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Class A, truly balanced design.
Dec 21, 2018
Onslash
154
Jul 27, 2018
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How does this compare to Liquid carbon x ? the internals on the matrix looks much more convincing...
Jul 27, 2018
Esten
3
Jul 19, 2018
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Sorry miss spelled Aune as Aeun meant Aune X7S
Jul 19, 2018
Esten
3
Jul 19, 2018
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Can anyone tell me how this amp compares to the Aeun X7S which I ordered and then realized doesn’t have balanced inputs but is otherwise balanced, ie should I sell the Auen and join this drop?
Jul 19, 2018
rslatara
184
Jul 17, 2018
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I'd like to see a deal on the classic, 3U or them make a balanced dac/amp.
Jul 17, 2018
badheinz1985
31
Jul 14, 2018
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I have no intentions to join this drop since I bought it directly from Matrix (did not want to wait for the drop). It's a nice amp providing plenty of power. How powerful it is? Well... at the moment I'm sitting down with my Fostex T60-RP (absolutely awesome headphones, by the way) on my head with a balanced cable plugged into the amp, and the volume nob is at 10 o'clock, on lowest gain setting (yes lowest gain setting of the available three), and the music is quite loud.
Some notes on build quality: 1. Volume knob could definitely improve to be more indicative. 2. Blue led indicating the power is on (I'm not pointing fingers at anyone, but I know some people out there are very picky about LED indicator colors). 3. Gain switch on the back is too tiny in my opinion. It feels like you could break it. 4. Power switch in the back as well (as you all can see). 5. Class A - gets hot as hell!
Sound: I have no issues with the sound at all. I guess I'm not very picky. Probably more "serious" audiophiles with better ears can share more useful opinions here.
Here is a pic of my setup for you...
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^^ As you can probably see, I'm feeding it with XLR cables from the Quattro II.
Jul 14, 2018
AndyZilla
9
Jan 3, 2019
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Hi, quick question if you don't mind :D I have the same amp and bought balanced headphones cables, but the volume is the same as single ended, no difference in Db whatsoever. Is it the case with your unit as well or are my cables the problem? :D Thx
Jan 3, 2019
badheinz1985
31
Jan 7, 2019
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Sure man. Here is the rig I used for testing:
  1. Headphones - Fostex T60RP.
  2. Cables: Standard cable provided with the headphones for the unbalanced out and Fostex 4-pole to XLR cable which I purchased for the balanced output (you can find all of them on this page: https://www.fostexinternational.com/docs/products/T60RP.shtml).
  3. Amplifier gain setting - lowest of the three.
  4. Volume knob position: 10:30.
  5. The amplifier was fed from the balanced DAC as you see in the photo above, through balanced cables (nothing fancy about the cables, you can find them reasonably priced on Amazon).
I can tell you that switching quickly from the unbalanced to the balanced cable definitely led to a volume increase, but not a dramatic one. I think with the Sennheiser HD 660S I will get the same results...
Jan 7, 2019
AltCtrl
1
Oct 29, 2017
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I have the old Matrix-M-Stage 2010 v.2 -- is it worth upgrading to this? My sound card is the Asus Essence STX. My headphones are: Beyer 1990 Pro, Beyer DT880 and soon to come HD6XX and Hifiman 4XX. How do I run these in balanced mode, is it a big difference? What are some other good solid state amp choices for these headphones? Thanks!
Oct 29, 2017
lugnut
97
Jul 17, 2018
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I own this amp and it is great amp. I also agree with everything you wrote. I like much better than the Jot. Its a shame this amp does not get more attention. I guess it boils down to the Chifi thing.
Jul 17, 2018
d3rrlck
51
Jul 17, 2018
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and the HPA-3B is built like a tank. You could literally use this amp for self-defense lol. There's a lot of quality parts put into this amp inside and out!
Jul 17, 2018
MrMotion
26
Oct 26, 2017
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Lol anyone notice original 420 price???
Oct 26, 2017
BIGGUY4x4
55
Sep 17, 2018
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Woah do you smoke weed?!
Sep 17, 2018
MrMotion
26
Sep 18, 2018
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Obviously
Sep 18, 2018
c0ld
114
Oct 25, 2017
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Would this be better than an NFB 11.28? Or is it worth it to go balanced with this setup with the HD6XX on the way. Can't decide what DAC/AMP combo to get for the HD6XX.
Oct 25, 2017
PaulWTDOC
24
Oct 26, 2017
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I recently bought a new NFB 11.28, and use it with My Senn 650. I have to say it is an amazing dac/amp combo. I do have the Jot dac, and it also sweet to my ears. I found no difference in sound quality between both. and I was using the xlr out to my senn's. the NFB is only 345 shipped, but I dropped 500 on the Jot,. I think that the NFB is much better value, and it offers clean, sound and powerful amp, and I also use it as a preamp to my Darkvoice and it sounds really good. .
Oct 26, 2017
trybeingarun
137
Oct 26, 2017
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People typically go for DIY bottlehead + crack for 650s (or 600s). See if you can fit it in your budget. I have the single ended HPA-3u+ unit and I don't think it pairs well with the 650. It makes the 650 sound analytical and thin and the highs sound a little weird to me. Works great with my HE560s though. If the 6xx is the only pair of headphones you're going to use for sometime it's better to pick bottlehead (apparently).
Oct 26, 2017
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